EP: 145 How To Nail Your Next Interview With Megan McCann

BWW 145 | Job Interview

 

Do you remember the movie The Wizard of Oz and the moment when Dorothy, the Lion, the Scarecrow, and the Tin Man go behind the curtain to see what the Wizard is doing? We’re doing that today by getting a behind-the-scenes look at the job interview process. My guest today is Megan McCann, the founder and CEO of McCann Partners, an IT recruitment firm. Megan knows her stuff when it comes to recruiting, so I thought it would be fun to pick her brain so we can nail our next interviews, whenever that may be. So let’s dive right into this insightful conversation.

During my chat with Megan, we discussed:

  • What recruiters are looking for when searching for top talent.
  • If recruiters are looking for candidates to LinkedIn, a good old-fashioned resume and thank you note.
  • What about the cover letter? Is that still needed?
  • What makes a candidate stand out?
  • What is a turn-off for a recruiter?
  • What Megan is looking for with executive candidates?
  • How can we retain top female talent, regardless of industry?

Listen to the podcast here

 

How To Nail Your Next Interview With Megan McCann

I’m glad you’re here. How are you doing out there? Let’s start a little differently. Let’s start with a quote that is something related to a movie. Do you remember the movie The Wizard Of Oz? I don’t even know what year it was, but it was a long time ago. If you’ve never seen the classic The Wizard Of Oz, you’ve got to see it. They have the black-and-white version and the color version of The Wizard Of Oz. I personally like the color version, but let’s fast forward to the moment when Dorothy, the lion, the scarecrow, and the Tin Man all go behind the curtain to see what the wizard is doing.

Do you remember that scene? My heart was like, “What is happening behind that curtain?” I feel like we are doing that by getting that behind-the-scenes look at the interview process. We’re not watching a movie together but we’re talking about interviewing which is important. Everybody needs to know how to interview.

My guest Megan McCann is the Founder and CEO of McCann Partners, an IT recruitment firm. Megan knows her stuff when it comes to recruiting, and that comes through loud and clear in our conversation. I thought it would be fun to pick her brain so we can nail our next interviews whenever they may be. During my chat with Megan, we discussed what recruiters are looking for when it comes to searching for top talent. If recruiters are looking at LinkedIn, are they also looking at a good old-fashioned resume? Is that even important anymore? What about a thank you note?

The next one I even asked about is, “What about a cover letter? There are still templates I’ve seen in Canva and online for cover letters.” According to Megan, is that needed or not needed? She’ll give you some thoughts on that. I also asked her what makes a candidate stand out above the rest and on the opposite side, what is a turn-off for a recruiter. What Megan is looking for when she’s searching for an executive-level candidate and we touch on executive presence and leadership, and how can we retain top female talent, regardless of industry?

Here’s more about Megan. She is an established IT recruitment and technology services leader, known for building and leading highly successful IT services firms for the work she does to advance diversity and cultivate talent across the technology industry. Megan is the CEO of leading IT recruitment for McCann Partners, which she founded in 2011. She and her team deliver IT recruitment with intention and integrity to a growing portfolio of innovative organizations from Chicago-based startups to companies with a global footprint.

 

BWW 145 | Job Interview

 

McCann Partners is dedicated to creating a more equitable and diverse workforce and is proud that more than 70% of their talent placements in the past years have been diverse hires. Prior to McCann Partners, Megan cofounded and help build Geneva Technical Services or GTS, and was a strategic force in growing select tech for both Premiere IT recruitment firms. Megan’s impact on the tech community far exceeds her day-to-day work as CEO of her own firm. Passionate about attracting retaining and advancing women in technology, Megan is a proud Cofounder of ARA, a national organization that seeks to promote women in technology and leadership through mentorship events and programs.

Her additional industry and leadership affiliations include membership in the CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion, American Staffing Association, CHIEF, and TechServe Alliance. She is also a Founding Partner of the Chicago Executive Women’s Networking Group and an active member of the Chicago Innovation’s Women’s Mentoring Co-Op.

In addition, as a Chicago Business Journal Bizwomen Headliner in Technology, Chicago Business Journal Women of Influence, a three-time Midwest Women in Tech Awards finalist, and an Illinois Technology Association CityLIGHTS finalist. In 2021, Megan was named to Staffing Industry Analysts’ inaugural Top 50 DE&I Influencers list and selected as ChiTech Academy Young Women’s Leadership Society Ambassador Of The Year.

Before we get started, if you’re enjoying the show, please make sure to leave a rating and review on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. First off, I love to hear from you and feedback on what you’d like to read or the quality of the shows. When you leave a rating and review, you’re also spreading that word out to other people throughout the world. It makes a difference and it helps the show continue to gain traction and grow.

I’m pleased to let you know that we hit 37 countries worldwide with all of our downloads across the world. Thank you so much for sharing the good word. I appreciate you. One more reminder, grab one of my freebies. Go to BraveWomenAtWork.com. I have a few freebies out there. One is called Getting Paid: 10 Negotiation Tips. The second one is 24 Career And Leadership Affirmations. The final one is 5 Steps To Managing Your Imposter Syndrome. They are free. Go and get them. Let’s welcome, Megan, to the show.

Megan, welcome to the show. How are you?

Wonderful. Thank you so much for having me. It is a delight to be with you.

I love to start out with women’s stories and this is such a big question to start. You can start anywhere you want. I wanted to know more about your backstory and how you’ve gotten to where you are.

That is a big one but I would be happy to dive in. I am the CEO and Founder of McCann Partners. We are a Chicago-based IT recruitment firm. It has been a journey. I fell into IT recruiting, but I say that and in many ways, recruiting was a calling for me. That goes all the way back to my time in college. I always had the desire to hear and understand people’s stories and do something to help and support them as they were navigating life. It started with students trying to select what college was the right fit for them.

I worked throughout my four years at my college admission office doing everything from tours of campus, to eventually becoming an intern in the admission office and interviewing students for admission into college. That was such a great way for me to be able to learn from young people across the United States, looking at my alma mater, which was Wittenberg University. I had such an incredible experience there that I wanted to bring others into that community.

Ultimately, I graduated from college. I stayed on and worked in the admission office doing stateside and international recruiting. After a couple of years doing that, I decided I wanted to make my way to the big city. I have friends here in Chicago. I started interviewing for jobs and interestingly, I was looking at jobs in Chicago and New York. I had an offer both in New York and Chicago. The one in Chicago was for an IT recruitment firm. The one in New York was to work for Donna Karan in the fashion industry.

It couldn’t have been more different roles. The path I took was to Chicago and I’ve never looked back. I thought it was going to be a stepping stone to get me to Chicago, but it became a lifelong passion to help those in the tech field. I’ve learned so much because it’s always changing and I decided many years ago to start my own firm.

You had an amazing art in yourself to your career. There are so many women that I have on the show and you could have stayed in recruiting and worked successfully with someone else, but you took the burden of starting your own recruiting firm many moons ago. What motivated you to do that?

I was ready for change. I decided the best way to find what I wanted was to create it for myself. In many ways, recreate it because I had the opportunity to be a partner in starting an organization prior. I had gone through that process as one of three partners. I understood the framework of what the journey would look like. I decided to do it for myself because I wanted to be intentional in the work that we were doing. Integrity is important to me. I wanted to make certain that we were using integrity in the work that we were doing.

I wanted to create a culture that was welcoming and a place where ideas were heard. I wanted to make certain that we were listening to both our clients and candidates to understand what their needs were. All of that sounds incredibly basic yet, it doesn’t always come as standard practices in staffing organizations. It was important for me to do that. It also gave me a platform to continue to lift women and other underrepresented persons because that is critically important to the work that I do day in and out.

That was a tough one. Think about the options you had. You could have gone and worked with Donna Karan or stayed on the recruiting side and you decided to take the higher path. I’m curious. Did you ever have any regrets about not working for Ms. Karan?

No. I was supposed to come in this direction. I don’t have a lot of regrets. I embraced what the journey has been, the opportunities and challenges that have come with that, and never truly looked back. I always like to do retrospectives certainly when things don’t go well in the organization or with a business deal so that we can continually learn.

Greatly, my mindset has always been headed in on a path for a purpose and I’m following my passion. Do I still love fashion? Yes. One of my greatest pleasures is sitting down with a home decorating magazine or coffee book with a glass of wine or a cup of coffee and pouring through it for design ideas, but do I wish I had made my career in that? I don’t. I love what I’m doing.

I don’t know if I’ve ever had someone that owns a recruiting firm. This is a special conversation and I love that you were also a founder of your own agency. It almost feels to me like a little bit of a peek behind the curtain for all of us that either looking for jobs or wanting to advance and build our brands and things like that. I have to ask you, what are some of the qualities that you look for when you’re hiring for companies?

It’s critical that we ensure that we hire people that have the proper technical requirements and skills for the role. Our hiring is only in IT. That is foremost. That needs to be there as the number one. There also needs to be a great company culture fit. That is also important. There’s a baseline of skills that are necessary for people to be successful. That includes things like being a team player, having good customer service skills, and having strong communication capabilities. That is all baseline.

Ensure to hire people with the proper technical requirements or skills for the role. There's also a baseline of skills necessary for people to be successful. Click To Tweet

There are some other skills that I have, throughout my career, seen people be more effective and successful in their roles whether I’m hiring for McCann Partners or for one of our client partners. Those are things like curiosity, creativity, adaptability, and passion for learning. Those are all critically important. I say that because particularly in the evolving landscape of workforce development, change is the only thing that is consistent.

If you are adaptable, creative, and curious with a passion for learning, you can figure things out as you go. No matter if you’re solving a business challenge or a technical challenge, those skills to get curious and ask questions to be creative and look at unique ways of solving things to adapt to new situations, new technologies, and the changing landscape, and then that overall passion for learning where people seek to learn and understand in order to expand their skillset and grow personally and professionally. That, combined with all of the other baseline skills, becomes a rough recipe for a successful hire.

That was where I was going to go as, “What are some of those more universal qualities?” You’ve answered that. Thank you. I was wondering when you’re in the interviewing process, you probably have a gut feeling about people like your EQ and emotional intelligence off the charts, understanding how people move through interviews, and give you answers. How can you tell when someone is curious, passionate, adaptable, or creative?

There’s a line of questioning that you can get into to explore what that looks like. If I’m interviewing, for example, a software engineer, I might dive into understanding how they make decisions around tools that they’re using to create the solution. What I’m looking for in that instance is not someone that looks at only one stack to create an application but someone that talks about, “I want to understand the business challenge that I am solving and then select the products and tools that are going to best help me do that.”

That’s different than saying, “I only work in this skillset or that skillset,” and going even deeper, “Talk about a time you realize that you didn’t have technical capabilities with a product or tool that you needed to use. How did you go about learning that product or tool? What steps did you take to become proficient in order to be able to do what you needed to do?”

Digging in a little bit more deeply and asking those 2nd, 3rd, and 4th-level questions, just not what are you using, but what made you decide to use that? Were you involved in the decision? How did you make the decision? Digging in that way to understand the nuts and bolts behind all of it versus, “I’m doing X, Y, and Z.” It applies certainly to hiring for technologists, but this is universal to any type of hiring that you’re doing. “When was the last time you picked up a book to learn something?” Asking those kinds of questions to understand.

It makes us think about what we’re doing with our time. I am as guilty as the next person of Netflix and chilling, but you’re talking about, “When was the last time you were learning something? When was the last time you took maybe a workshop, a seminar in person, or virtually?” There are some things that if we are in a place of career pivot and we’re looking for a new position, things that we can prep for because the skills you’re saying are not just for technology sectors, but they’re for every sector.

There are many interesting ways including Netflix where you could watch a documentary that is relevant to a career pivot, for example, or podcasts that you can listen to about things that you’re interested in or new products, services, tools, and capabilities. We’re fortunate. There’s almost an unlimited amount of information that’s available to us. It doesn’t have to be something as massive as, “I am going to get a certification as this or that.” It can be as simple as, “I’m listening to a leadership podcast series. I listened to a 30-minute episode every other day.” That still, to me, shows that someone is embracing knowledge and working to improve themselves. It can be something as great as pursuing a degree or certification, or something as simple as, “I am reading this or listening to that.”

That’s great because it makes it accessible because I don’t want people to be like, “I got to take a whole course now.” You don’t. I love that it’s bite-sized and it can be little things but it shows that those qualities are there. That’s great. Thank you for sharing that. Let’s dig a little deeper. You talk about second-line questioning. I’m interviewing for a new hire and I’m still getting resumes but I also go into LinkedIn as well. When you’re interviewing people, are you also looking for a good old-fashioned resume across your desk or you’re like, “I don’t care. I’m going to go to LinkedIn,” or do you look at both?

I look at both. There’s probably some controversy in that because of bias that can come into the hiring process both from looking at resumes and LinkedIn. I want to acknowledge that and I don’t have a good solution for that other than being mindful of it. We are still very much in the mindset, at least the clients we’re working with which are mid and large enterprise organizations. They still want a resume.

I’m excited to see how we will continue to evolve and how things like video messaging and answering a set of questions for a hiring committee can come into play. There are a lot of things that are happening. We haven’t removed the necessity for a resume. I firmly believe and I would put this in caps for a fact that the LinkedIn profile and the resume must be aligned. That means dates and information. It can be identical. It can be slightly less on LinkedIn, but they need to align.

I can’t tell you the number of times that our clients will even say to us. We’re not perfect. We’ve missed it. The LinkedIn profile does not align with the resume. It’s important number one that they align in order to get a message across. I do think that there are some unique ways to come to the industry that you’re in to share your credentials. If you are a UX/UI designer, for example, you might send something that is reflective of your portfolio or something unique that you’ve created wireframes for that role and how you align. There’s room for creativity depending on your role and to think uniquely and creatively outside the box can set you apart and also showcase your work.

BWW 145 | Job Interview
Job Interview: It’s important to align your Resume and LinkedIn Profile and get a message across.

 

When you see that there are discrepancies between LinkedIn and the resume, are you worried or concerned about, “Are they serious about the job search? Are they being completely forthcoming?” What are the things that pop up in your head from recruiting from an agency when they don’t match?

I don’t often think it’s not them being interested in the role. It’s more about wanting to validate the information for truthfulness and making certain that everything aligns. Admittedly, many people have gaps for example in their careers for one reason or another. It’s important to embrace those and share the story. For example, if I notice on a resume that the dates all aligned well, but there’s a gap on LinkedIn, I’ll ask about it only because it’s better to be forthcoming and truthful. This is a lot of where the integrity comes in and tell your story as it is.

There are plenty of people that have taken career pivots. They’ve changed industries. They’ve taken time off to raise families or provide elder care. They’ve helped family members with illness, or they themselves have had a health issue. We don’t need to disclose all of that, but an understanding so that you can better tell the story because our clients will ask, “I noticed that there’s a discrepancy. I know there’s a gap. Can you speak to that?” I will never discount someone because of those things, but I want to be able to answer the questions in order to best support them in their goal of finding whatever their next new role is.

Never discount someone because of the gaps but answer the questions to best support them in finding their next new role. Click To Tweet

I like that you said that because there are many people that have had like a gap because of a health issue, being a caregiver, they were at home, taking care of family, young children, or they made a choice where they’re like, “I’m doing a reset.” As long as they can answer that, it’s great that you’re not going to discount them if they’re qualified candidates. Candidates are afraid. It’s better to be truthful about the gaps and to try to brush over them.

One of the greatest lessons may be of the last handful of years with the pandemic and the number of people who were impacted by layoffs, or how to make very difficult decisions for one of the family members to be the caregiver for kids that were home because we were living in unusual times. There wasn’t a playbook for how to have in your home, care for them, help educate them, and have a job. Some grace has come from that shared situation because we were all managing it together.

We may not have all been at home with kiddos together but we were all seeing our co-workers and friends navigate the challenge of what that was like depending on the age of family members. That has helped with some grace. I also believe things like LinkedIn giving you a title to taking leave, making that relevant on your profile, and being able to designate that was another way for us to realize that sometimes you do need to shift, change, or take time off.

It shouldn’t be held against you but embraced as maybe a gift that it brings to the work environment because you have empathy for team members that might be in a similar place and an understanding of how creating a little bit of flexibility for your employees can make all the difference in them being successful and navigating, not only being a professional but being a person and the responsibilities that come with being a person no matter what these are.

Creating a bit of flexibility for your employees can make all the difference in them being successful and navigating, not only being a professional, but being a person. Click To Tweet

By talking with you I can tell you’re hiring for the right person, not just for a role, and it’s wonderful. As a compliment, I can tell why you’ve been successful because you’re looking at everything from all angles. You’re not just looking at what’s on the resume or the LinkedIn profile. That’s important but you’re also looking behind it to understand what the whole story is. What about someone that’s looking for a role? Are there any other tips you would say that make a resume and/or a LinkedIn profile stand out to you?

Clear concise language is super important. Often, people do not tailor their resume or response to a job to the role. It’s important to make certain that if there are required skills and they aren’t highlighted appropriately on your resume that you do bring those to the forefront, whether you do that in a summary or objective or as part of a cover letter. Being action-oriented in terms of your content and showcasing both the contribution of your work and the impact so that’s quantifiable is also important.

This is going to show my age. When I was applying for jobs, I was writing a physical thank you card. I come from that era. I’m going to ask you if the cover letter is important or not, and/or the thank you card, or an email. I’m still in the thank you card camp but I want to get your opinion on those two items.

I’m going to take the easier of the two first, the cover letter. I don’t believe there is still a place for the cover lever. The reason I feel that way is because of the social networks that we’ve all built through tools like LinkedIn. Many times, the cover letter in my mind was a warm introduction to the company or to the group that you were applying to or HR to showcase why you were the right person for the job. Many times, we can leverage our LinkedIn connections or our network to get those warm introductions into companies and hiring managers that help then lift the profile of the person within the organization.

To me, cover letters are a thing of the past. The complete opposite for thank you notes. A thank you note, handwritten, card, or email is critical. For me, it speaks to things like follow-up. If you’re interviewing someone, it shows what their follow-up skills are like. That could be indicative of how they’re going to perform for you. I’m also a firm believer in a gratitude practice. I write in my gratitude journal each morning and evening. For me, the thank you note is an extension of that ritual and being appreciative of one’s time for expressing thanks for being considered for the role.

It is all nice and important. Here’s what the cherry on top is. The thank you note can also speak to other skills that may be the hiring person has not thought about. It can speak to your ability to listen because you can use content from your conversation and weave that into the thank you. Thank you note is another great way to thoughtfully share ideas, recommendations, or resources that you may have mentioned in the conversation, or maybe after thinking a little bit more about the role in the conversation that you had with that individual or that team of people, you can follow up and share resources to show that you’ve continued to think about it. One step further in the process, a little bit like the cherry on top.

For those that work for us where we’re the advocate as a hiring partner or as a recruiting firm, McCann Partners or any other recruiting firm can also get feedback or feed-forward. My best friend always likes to say feed-forward. We can get that feedback or feed-forward and share it back to the community so she or he can weave into the response information that might bring additional detail, address concerns or apprehensions, and then that can help the interviewing person or team feel better about the individual as a candidate. Above all, it can’t be generic. It has to be specific, authentic, sincere, and personalized. It’s another great tool to stand out and get more messaging in front of them about why you are the person for the job.

I have one other question about the interview process. It sounds like the thank you note can also reiterate your landing statements and your final pitch to the interviewer or the hiring manager. How important do you think that’s final statement is in an interview from the candidate to the hiring manager or the recruiter?

It aligns with everything that I said. You have to get that in there. It’s reiterating why you think you are the right or best person for the job and why you’re interested in the role.

Thank you so much for sharing all those nuggets of wisdom. Everybody, reread this again to let that sink in. Let’s swing to the total opposite. What are some big turn-offs or things that don’t excite you when you’re talking with a candidate that makes you as a recruiter go, “Next or no?”

I’ll address the question in two ways. If I look at resumes only, we have many tools that are available to us to proof for language and spelling errors. If there are errors like that, I am automatically turned off. We have too many tools that are available to us now to not have the resume formatted well, look good, and have spelling errors.

The interesting thing is depending on the systems you use, resumes can come through in a lot of different formats. Try it in a couple of different ways to make certain it’s coming through well. That’s one thing. Blanket outreach does not work for me. It takes an extra moment to make it personal and applicable to the job that you are applying to, but taking that extra step is important. It will help a candidate rise to the surface more quickly than other candidates. I would say that within the context of the resume or application process.

It takes an extra moment to make it personal and applicable to the job you are applying to. But taking that extra step is important to help a candidate rise to the surface more quickly than other candidates. Click To Tweet

The other thing for me, we all own our own stories, which means we need to be able to tell them. That includes anything that’s written on your resume. If you’ve put a tool on a resume and said that you are an expert at it, and I go that direction again because of the tech lens, you need to be able to speak to it, how, why, and where you used it.

If you have said that, you have impacted outcomes in given percentages and numbers. You have to be able to speak to how that happens. It’s going back to those questions. Not just the top-level questions, but you need to be able to answer the secondary and tertiary questions about your resume because it’s your story. No one is going to be able to tell the story better than you. You have to own it and talk to it in a way that is confident and showcases the work that you’ve done.

That is not to say, you have to know everything. I could ask someone a question about something that isn’t on their resume or something tangential to what’s on their resume. If they don’t know the answer, they simply say, “I don’t have a good answer for you, but I’m going to look into that and get back to you,” and then goes into the thank you letter. Unless it’s something we have done, we don’t have to have the answer for everything and we can own that, but then take the next step and follow through to get the information back. When people don’t do that or try to answer the question to make you feel like they’ve done what they’ve said or used what they mentioned, but not gotten into the detail, that’s almost worse than saying, “I don’t know, but let me get back to you.”

What I understand is that if they answer it vaguely or you can tell blatantly that they’re bluffing and they may have put something in the resume that they don’t have the answer to, it’s worse than admitting, “I don’t know the answer, but I’ll get back to you,” and then do the follow through.

Someone on my team asked me a question about a configuration setting in our ATS that related to our email. I said, “I have no idea.” She’s like, “You’re the CEO.” I’m like, “I may be the CEO but I don’t have the answer to every question. We’re going to have to go and find someone,” and we did. You don’t have to have any answer to every question. You can own what you know and you know well. Own what you don’t and talk about how you would learn it or what you would do to figure things out.

That almost goes back full circle to the top of our discussion. That is, “What are those unique skills that you want people to have?” That’s like that creativity, the curiosity, and the proactivity of saying, “I don’t know, but this is how I’m going to learn.” All of that is critically important. I don’t need an answer to every question. If it’s related to things you have done, I need to understand how you would figure it out. I do want to know what you’ve done and have clarity on what you’ve put on your resume, and how you’ve explained it to me. There’s a difference for me.

The other thing that’s neat about what you said in the thank you note is that if you don’t know the answer, you’re physically demonstrating the skills that you’ve talked about and that maybe you, as a recruiter, have recognized. If you’re thinking in your gut and writing notes and saying, “I see that this person is resourceful,” then they say they don’t know the answer to a question but then they come back and thank you note and then their resource will not give you a straight answer that’s accurate. You’re going to be reedified that your hunch about that person is true.

They call it a job search process for a reason. There are pieces and parts to that process that help tell the story. The resume is one way, thank you note, the interview. Sometimes organizations, particularly in tech, will do whiteboarding exercises. There’s a reason they do that. A whiteboarding exercise in the tech world is an excellent way for employers and their teams to understand how an individual troubleshoots when he or she says he or she has a skill and how they respond to probing.

How do they take feedback? If you’re saying to them, “That’s not going to work,” do they get defensive or do they look at it and say, “I see your point. We could try this,” or, “I don’t agree with you. Here’s why,” but they do it without being defensive? You can glean so much from those interactions. Every step of that journey gives an employer a data point for making a hiring decision. It’s important to think about it in that context.

I’m sure you’ve had this with candidates. One of the questions on the interview process is, have you ever had a candidate that was such a good interviewer? I would use the word slick. Their answers were perfect like a textbook. I’ve had situations where I still didn’t feel sure about them because they never tip their cards to tell me who they were. Whether it was the personal stories, any vulnerability, or anything at all. Have you ever had that and any words around that scenario when they’re polished but then you don’t get a grasp of who they are and if they would be a fit in the culture?

I probably have had that experience more for internal hiring than hiring for clients. There’s something to the philosophy that you have to put job seekers in a couple of different types of interview scenarios to vet out how they respond in those groups and see if they shine differently in one light than another. For example, someone in an interview process could perform perfectly but get to a whiteboarding exercise, coating challenge, or lunch and completely fail. That does not make them not a good hire. It’s another data point for you to dig in.

For example, a software engineer might be the most proficient coder and an introvert. Being in a lunch setting would not serve that individual well as part of the interview process, but put them in a whiteboarding situation so that they can talk about technology and you can see them light up because they’re excited about how to apply new tools to solve a business challenge. It could give you a whole difference light through which to look at them and evaluate them.

You almost have to go back and make certain that you’ve clearly defined what your hiring criteria is and then make certain that your interview process appropriately aligns with that so that you’re evaluating them on the skills that are required for the job. If I’m, for example, hiring a salesperson for my internal team, I want to see them in a social situation because that is a part of the work each and every day. If I’m hiring someone that is doing software engineering, that might not be necessary to evaluate them for the role. It’s being clear on what the hiring decision criteria are and making certain that the interview process aligns so that you have those data points to make an informed decision.

That’s interesting as we’re closing off on the interview process. You’re talking about situational hiring, the fact that you put them in a situation based on matching, and what type of position you’re looking for. I’m looking for candidates too and they might live in different parts of the country. They’re willing to relocate but they’re in different parts. Things happening via Zoom. I can’t get them into those situations or maybe you’ll say, “Think differently. Think out of the box.” How do you handle that when many people are in different places and you may not be able to get them in a physical lunch setting?

Think out of the box. How could you get them into a networking situation that would be similar and that could be bringing in a candidate that you’ve worked with or a client, asking a favor of a client to come in and talk with them to determine how that interaction flows or how they start to ask questions of the people that are with them? At the end of the day, I firmly believe that the last handful of years have taught us that there is a place for remote work and it will be with us for some time to come.

I also value being able to sit across from someone for that interaction but it’s not going to be possible at all times. We need to continue to get creative on how to assimilate those situations. There are certainly ways to do that. I am guilty of this myself. Sometimes, we’re running so fast that we’re not taking a moment to stop and think about it to craft the appropriate interview process and take into account that interviewing for sales and marketing people is going to be different from technical and creative folks.

There’s not, unfortunately, a one-size-fits-all approach. I do advocate no matter what to look at situational, interviewing questions to drive data points. The world that we work and live in right now is changing dramatically. look at AI. How we do our jobs and the tools that are coming to us to help do those are changing almost at the minute, maybe even less.

If you can’t start to start to understand and appreciate the entire person that you are hiring, how they work best when they work best, how they learn, and all of those things, they may not be the right person for the long term. They might be the right person for here now, but are they going to be the right person in 3 or 6 months? Thinking beyond just what the core requirements of the job are, particularly in IT, you have to get a little bit greater than that because they have to be able to evolve, and honestly, that philosophically should apply to all situations.

That’s very instructive for people that are being interviewed and interviewing. Thank you for that. It takes more than a cookie-cutter approach is what I understand. Speaking about non-cookie cutter, one more question on candidate types. There are women that are reading that may eventually want to get to Director or VP C-Suite, or maybe already there and looking for another C-Suite job. I know you look for executive-level talent as well. Are there any differences in what you’re looking for for an executive candidate that we haven’t discussed?

The executive-level candidate has to convey confidence and have a presence because they’re influencing others in a different way than an entry-level person or a mid-career person. Particularly if you have your eyes set on crafting a career path for yourself that as you move up within leadership ranks, you need to exhibit that you have that confidence, command attention, and not be afraid to ask for what you want but understand what you’re asking for. At the executive level, you have to be able to confidently walk into a room and take ownership of that space in order to get things done and we need to lean in that into that as women for sure.

Readers, I did a whole episode on Executive Presence and some thoughts around that, but you also mentioned a few other things like taking up full space when you walk into the room. I don’t know if everybody can sense that but I can sense that. I’m sure you as a recruiter and owning a firm can sense if someone is playing small or big when they walk in.

You can feel it. It’s like an energy dynamic shift.

We talked about confidence a ton in the show. Go back into the way back of the library here and check out those resources since we won’t have time to dive in, but thank you for sharing that because it aligns with some of the things that we’ve been talking about in regard to executive presence. To finish off on that, is it an energy or a feeling?

People will say, “How do I get it? How do I have it?” You hone that skill over time to have that presence because if you’re going to be in front of a small team, a large team, or a huge corporation, you’ve got to have that it-factor to be able to command everyone, not in our authoritative way but in an inspiring leader type of way.

It’s a muscle that needs to be worked out. It’s a practice that you need to own and refine. I have never had anxiety. I’m not an anxious person. I’m an excitable person. I’ve never felt that way. I’ve spoken in front of tons of people when I was in high school and college. I did theater. I never struggled with any issue about being in front of people and presenting to people. COVID changed that for me. I had to rework and work on that muscle because it’s different being behind a camera than it is being in front of people.

Personally, when I started going back out, I realized and noticed in myself, I would get highs. I could show you a few photos where if you look closely, you could tell I have highs. I certainly do it. I had to practice. It’s something that we all have to find ways to reinforce for ourselves whether that is doing the Amy Cuddy power pose before you walk on stage, into a meeting, or start that presentation, whether it is taking a moment of reflection and meditation, a quick one, changing your breathing, carrying a crystal, or wearing a piece of jewelry that empowers you in some way.

There’s a friend in the industry that talks about wearing big chunky necklaces. She does that when she is on stage or presents. It is like a shield for herself to let anything that comes negative at her reflect right off of her. She does it very mindfully because that’s the armor that she is putting on when she presents. Whatever the strategy is that serves you, you got to do it. If it’s that lucky charm, you got to have it. How you do it is not as important as doing it. Whatever those little tips and tricks that work for you, you have to do it. You don’t have to tell everyone about it but you have to do it, by having that special thing with you, that piece of jewelry, or your favorite shoes. It doesn’t matter what it is. It will help you show up more confident, calm, and ready for whatever comes at you.

I appreciate your vulnerability there because you come off as a very confident person but the fact that you had to relearn the muscle means that it is a muscle that has to be continually honed. You sound like you had it more innately in you and you’ve always had it. On the other hand, I have had to hone it. I was a super shy person and people are like, “You have a show?”

It’s taking a lot of time for me to get to this point. This message should Inspire anyone, whether you’re the most shy person in the room and you want to learn how to speak in front of others or do a podcast of your own. You can do that. You can develop an executive presence if that’s where you want to go in your career.

I appreciate you sharing that because we’re not always equipped with everything that we need, but if we want to invest time, energy, and effort, we can development and then you go one step further. If you need mentors to help you with that, coaches, or other resources, you ask and it will come to you.

I know that you are hiring top candidates. You do not care about male, female, or any of the pronouns. I wanted to ask you in terms of just females. What do you think is going to be required to retain top female talent, not only in the tech industries, but other Industries, in this post-COVID era?

Equity, creating flexible work environments, fostering, diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging, and accessibility, carving out clear career paths, and having women in executive-level roles so the next generation of talent being higher see them because you cannot be what you cannot see.

See the next generation of talent being higher because you cannot be what you cannot see. Click To Tweet

I would love to know your thoughts on a question I ask all of my guests which is, what do you believe are 1 to 2 ways women can be braver at work?

Speak another woman’s name when she is not in the room to advocate for herself, to advocate for the promotion, her ability, and capability to do X, Y and Z. Do not be afraid to speak her name and bring another woman with you into the room. I always feel like we need to approach escalating women in the workforce from a place of abundance where there’s enough for everyone. That goes down to things like there is room for more than just one female or diverse candidate in the C-Suite or executive suite. It’s our job to embrace those moments to make that happen.

I appreciate that insight. Where can women connect with you and your work online?

I would love to connect with anyone that has questions or wants to dig deeply in a different way into these topics. If you can’t tell, I’m super passionate about all of this and want to do whatever I can to leave the world better for women and underrepresented groups for future generations. I am on LinkedIn @MeganMcCann. You can find me there. You can reach me by email. It’s MMcCann@McCannPartners.com. I would be delighted to continue the conversation. Thank you, Jen, for welcoming me to share my thoughts and these little nuggets. I hope that people find inspiration and we’ll pay it forward by sharing it with others.

BWW 145 | Job Interview
Job Interview: I hope that people find inspiration and will pay it forward by sharing it.

 

Thank you so much for being on. Readers, if you have any questions or want to collaborate, it would be wonderful. Thank you much for offering all of your contact info and for the work that you do because I can tell you’re passionate about it. It’s wonderful to have guests like you that can bring that passion to what you do each and every day.

Thank you.

That’s a wrap of my conversation with Megan. I hope you found our discussion both valuable and inspiring. As a reminder, please rate, review, and subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. The show is also available on Google Podcasts or any other platform you enjoy. Until next time. Show up, rock your next interview, and be brave.

 

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About Megan McCann

BWW 145 | Job InterviewMegan McCann is an established IT recruitment and technology services leader known for building and leading highly successful IT services firms, and for the work she does to advance diversity and cultivate talent across the technology industry.
 
Megan is the CEO of leading IT recruitment firm McCann Partners, which she founded in 2011. She and her team deliver IT recruitment with intention and integrity to a growing portfolio of innovative organizations—from Chicago-based startups to companies with a global footprint. McCann Partners is dedicated to creating a more equitable and diverse workforce, and proud that more than 70% of their talent placements in the past two years have been diverse hires. Prior to McCann Partners, Megan co-founded and helped build Geneva Technical Services (GTS), and was a strategic force in growing SelecTech—both premier IT recruitment firms.
 
Megan’s impact on the tech community far exceeds her day-to-day work as CEO of her own firm. Passionate about attracting, retaining, and advancing women in technology, Megan is a proud co-founder of ARA, a national organization that seeks to promote women in technology and leadership through mentorship, events, and programs. Her additional industry and leadership affiliations include membership in the CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion, the American Staffing Association, CHIEF, and TechServe Alliance.
 
She is also a founding partner of the Chicago Executive Women’s Networking Group and an active member of Chicago Innovation’s Women’s Mentoring Co-Op. In addition, as a Chicago Business Journal Bizwomen Headliner in Technology, Chicago Business Journal Women of Influence, a three-time Midwest Women in Tech Awards finalist, and an Illinois Technology Association CityLIGHTS finalist. In 2021, Megan was named to Staffing Industry Analysts inaugural Top 50 DE&I Influencers list and selected as a ChiTech Academy Young Women’s Leadership Society Ambassador of the Year.

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